Rockets owner wants to see changes to league’s scheduling and Draft Lottery systems

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There are some visionaries out there who think that the NBA needs drastic changes to the game itself in order to improve what’s already a fairly compelling product.

While plenty would dispute whether adding a four-point line or eliminating charging fouls would actually improve things over time, there are a couple of areas where it’s easy to find almost unanimous agreement that some change is warranted.

The grueling schedule and the Draft Lottery system are two of the most obvious issues that need addressing, and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has ideas for fixing the existing problems.

From Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle:

Alexander called for changes as extreme as requiring teams to win a certain number of games to be eligible for the top three picks of the draft to avoid systematic tanking to the more subtle change of extending the season to spread out the 82 games and reduce the number of back-to-backs.

“I think the league has too many games that are considered exhibition games where people don’t show up with their teams and also, people trying to lose so badly the game isn’t a real game,” Alexander said. “It hurts me every time I see it because it damages the league. There should be some disincentive to lose. Right now, we have an incentive to lose. I think it should be switched.

“My solution is a team has to win a certain number of games in a year in order to get in the top three picks. Pick a number so you have to field a competitive team. I think it’s horrible. It ticks me off that people are trying to win by losing.”

The league is indeed concerned about the perception of teams tanking, and has been publicly since at least last February, when Adam Silver was fairly outspoken about being open to making changes to the Draft Lottery system so that losing isn’t so overtly incentivized.

The league attempted to revamp the lottery this season, but couldn’t get the required number of votes from ownership to pass the particular proposal that was brought to the table.

Setting a threshold for wins a team must have to qualify for a top-three pick is an interesting idea, and one that would certainly require teams to maintain a minimum level of talent on the roster in order to remain competitive on a nightly basis.

The problem becomes, where do you set that number? Eight teams finished the regular season last year winning less than 30 games, and five of them finished having exactly 25 wins or less.

Alexander also discussed his issues with the scheduling:

“We’re going to hopefully lengthen the schedule which will reduce back-to-backs,” Alexander said. “The league should have a computer program which equalizes back-to-backs. And when you have a back-to-back, you shouldn’t have to go that far, like when we play Dallas or San Antonio back-to-back.”

Alexander said that the early-morning arrivals – the Rockets landed after 4 a.m. on morning of a game after playing in Denver – “is not good for the sport. You’re not going to get the best.”

He said he is pushing to start the season earlier by reducing the length of the preseason and extending the season into the summer and is “100 percent” supportive of extended the season into July, a barrier the NBA has been loath to cross.

Cutting the preseason in half seems to be the most logical way to reduce some back-to-backs, and the idea of playing the ones that are necessary more regionally would similarly cut down on wear and tear for the players.

That part may be a bit more complicated, however, given the way the availabilities of the arenas can vary from one city to the next over the course of the season.

The ideas Alexander floats seem more than reasonable. But whether they come about in these specific incarnations or they don’t, what’s important here is that someone who actually is in a position to enact some real change in these areas seems to be interested in doing so.

Report: Clippers teammates rolled eyes at Paul George’s postseason calls for togetherness

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Paul George and Montrezl Harrell reportedly had a heated exchange on the bench during the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets.

Apparently, that wasn’t an isolated incident.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Paul George had a disappointing series against Denver, and had several moments that left him in compromising positions with his teammates — beyond just his production. Multiple teammates had verbal spats with George throughout the postseason, citing in their exchanges a lack of accountability from him.

In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, George was preaching to teammates to remain committed, for all the players to return to the team this offseason and stay ready to make another run. It was met by some eye rolls and bewilderment, sources said, because George did not back up his words with action in the series and the team has multiple free agents with decisions to make.

George wanted more time with his teammates. They already had enough of him.

This had been a simmering problem – George and Kawhi Leonard getting preferential treatment, their teammates resenting it. Harrell sounded particularly bothered by the dynamic.

Losing exacerbates issues like that, and getting upset by Denver was a big loss. Both George and Harrell faced oncourt and offcourt stressors – only further contributing to squabbling.

Harrell will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Clippers should try to keep him. He’s a good player, and they wouldn’t gain much cap flexibility without him.

But the 26-year-old might also want to explore the market and secure the most lucrative deal. It’d be reasonable for him to resent a teammate pressing him just to take the Clippers’ offer – especially if Harrell felt George wasn’t as committed to the team in the first place.

George and Leonard have earned preferential treatment. Leonard in particular has shown he benefits from load management.

However, that can annoy teammates. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad plan. It just means that downside should be accounted for.

It’d be nice if Leonard were more vocal or George rubbed fewer people the wrong way. But their basketball talent means dealing with their shortcomings. It’d be nice if George’s eye-rolling teammates realized that, too.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers bears responsibility for managing this tension. A this best, he connects well with players and gets everyone pulling for the same goal. That’s his job as the Clippers try to make the next step.

Miami’s Meyers Leonard adjusting to going from starter to out of rotation

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Meyers Leonard was bent forward at the waist, standing a few feet away from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra on the Heat sideline, screaming with every bit of the volume that his deep and booming voice can generate.

This is his role right now for the Heat.

His only role.

Leonard is in a tough spot these days; a full-time starter during the regular season, he is now out of the rotation as the Miami Heat have made their run to the Eastern Conference finals. It is a bitter pill for him to swallow — yet to his credit, he hasn’t acted the least bit bitter about his current reality.

“My team knows this, and our coaching staff knows this,” Leonard told The Associated Press. “I would do anything to be out there. And I’d be lying if I said that I’m not competitive as hell. I wish I was impacting the game on the floor. I’m not, but as a person and as a player, I want what’s best for everybody.”

So for now, the 7-foot, 260-pound, chiseled center is the tallest, strongest and best-paid assistant coach in these playoffs. He calls out what he’s seeing on every possession, pulls aside teammates for quick one-on-one chats when necessary, and on off days he’s getting his on-court work in just in case he’s needed to play.

Leonard has started 49 of his 51 appearances with the Heat this season, more starts than he made in his seven seasons with Portland combined. But in the playoffs, he’s logged a total of nine minutes, all in one appearance.

“Meyers is one of the most special people I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach and to be around,” Spoelstra said. “He is just an incredible human being and teammate. He has all our hearts. We will do anything for him because he is so pure.”

Leonard, more than anything else, got unlucky at the worst possible time.

He badly sprained his left ankle in early February and wasn’t anywhere near being ready to return to the lineup when the NBA season was suspended March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. And then when team facilities shut down as a precaution, Leonard’s rehab process had to be amended as well.

That was the first issue. The second was Miami became a different team a few days after he got hurt, pulling off a trade to bring Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to the Heat. Crowder has become a starter, and Spoelstra told Leonard before Miami resumed play in the NBA’s restart bubble that he was taking the rotation in a different direction.

It was tough on Leonard mentally. He was struggling when he got to the bubble because of his ankle, then spent days wrestling about whether he should stand for the national anthem or kneel with his teammates, and on top of all that he essentially lost his job as well.

“There’s just two things that I won’t ever let be questioned and that’s character and work ethic,” Leonard said. “Every day when I walk through the door, I’m going to be a great guy, a great teammate. It’s not fake. So I’m trying to make my impact now from the sideline.”

There are a few starters who aren’t in the same roles that they were for the four teams remaining in this NBA season. Avery Bradley opted out of joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the bubble. Will Barton — who led Denver in minutes per game this season — has a knee injury and has missed the Nuggets’ entire postseason run. Gordon Hayward has missed much of Boston’s playoff stint while recovering from a sprained ankle. Heat rookie Kendrick Nunn, a starter all season, is in Miami’s second unit now.

Leonard saw the Heat change, and his role change with it. He didn’t sulk, lash out or complain.

“It’s not easy, being in this kind of situation, going through the injury he went through and having the hiatus where he didn’t get the full opportunity to rehab it,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s making the most of it, and if he gets his opportunity, he will be ready.”

Leonard also sees the reason why he should be helping the Heat however he can right now. He’s never been this close to an NBA championship; the Heat lead the Celtics 2-1 in the East finals, with Game 4 on Wednesday night.

He’ll be ready to scream some more then, too.

“I am, in the best way possible, the most jealous of watching our team’s success,” Leonard said. “I literally said this to my wife the other night. I said, ‘Elle, we are six wins away from a ring.’ That is so damn special.”

Anthony Davis yelled “Kobe” after he sank game winner

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The Lakers played in the Kobe-designed Black Mamba jerseys on Sunday night, when Anthony Davis did about the most Kobe thing possible — he drained a buzzer-beater game-winner.

When Davis did it, he yelled “Kobe.”

The Los Angeles Lakers have talked a lot this season about honoring the legacy of Kobe with their play and effort this season, and coach Frank Vogel did after this game.

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” Vogel said. “AD flying to the wing like that, catch and shoot with the game on the line, the biggest moment of the season, nothing but net? That’s a Mamba shot.”

The Lakers are now 3-0 in those black Mamba jerseys these playoffs. Expect to see them again.

NBA world reacts to Anthony Davis’ game-winner for Lakers

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It might go down as the shot of the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets had battled back from 16 points down to take the lead behind a brilliant performance from Nikola Jokic, who had the team’s final 11 points. Throw in a Jamal Murray block and the Nuggets were up one with 2.1 seconds left.

Then Anthony Davis happened.

The Lakers won the game (going up 2-0 in the series) and the NBA world took to Twitter to react — including a lot of NBA players.